When volleyball gets in the way of a PQQ

4 July 2011
Renata Towlson is senior buyer (best practice) at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS TrustI very much welcome the initiative by Bangor University’s School of Law, Dublin City University’s strategic procurement unit and the Irish Institute of Purchasing & Materials Management to address the issue of small indigenous suppliers (SIS) missing out on public sector contracts by educating buyers and suppliers. My experience of working with small suppliers in some categories is proving to be highly laborious, however rewarding work on the buyers’ side proves to be. Recently, a minor works tendering process revealed the type of market and businesses we are working with and why it is so important to put extra effort and energy into coaching and encouraging them during the tendering process. The crux is in the culture of the people leading small businesses, the philosophy of life they are living by and reality as perceived by them. One of our prospective suppliers had been posted and e-mailed instructions of how to register themselves onto the BravoSolution tendering system in order to be able to access an opportunity advertised by our organisation. We had not heard anything for weeks so we reminded them about the closing date. They had no idea what we were talking about, so we e-mailed the information again, explaining the reasons why, the advantages of being registered and the help we can provide to assist them with the completion of the online PQQ form. In most of the cases, only the personal telephone approach leads to the required outcome – participation in the process to be able to be considered on the framework. One director of a two-person plumbing company told me with disempowering charm that he might not be able to meet the deadline because he is a volunteer volleyball referee at weekends – the only time he would have time to do the PQQ form. I liked it! I want a society of many little businesses supporting themselves and their families, contributing to communities and leading fulfilling and exciting lives. And for that reason I am prepared to exert my energy to help and extend the deadline with the proviso that they will give this little extra time to compete for the public and greater good. Can they compete with big players? Yes, they can and they should! Procurement landscapes need a mixture of business models and most of all should be able to assist commerce in leading more fulfilling lives, in which efficiency, better value for money and return on each pound put into the economy has a different value to the one we understand. I would welcome academic society, for example Bangor University undertaking a proper benchmark, with the right criteria, between minor works framework taking into consideration 100 companies and one which is based merely on a few very big ones. Volunteer volleyball referees are probably a scarce commodity. We should hail and support them and always remember that the very phrase “Official Journal of European Union” is a million miles away from the local richness of their lives. I do appreciate some of us have to be responsible for the bigger picture, but without properly addressed detail we are doomed to fail. * Renata Towlson is senior buyer (best practice) at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
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